Palace: ‘Totally unnecessary’ to prove ‘oust-Duterte matrix’

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Oust-Duterte Matrix
In this April 22, 2019 photo, presidential spokesperon Salvador Panelo holds the so-called matrix on the alleged ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.
The STAR / Alexis Romero

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Wednesday sought to defend anew the credibility of the so-called “oust-Duterte matrix” linking journalists and pro bono lawyers to a plan to unseat President Rodrigo Duterte, saying it is “totally unnecessary” to provide proof of the alleged plotters’ participation in the conspiracy.

A diagram—released last week in an exclusive banner story of broadsheet Manila Times and later that day in a press briefing at the Palace—alleged that the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, VERA Files, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Rappler are conniving against Duterte.

The matrix also linked the three media outlets and the group of lawyers to an anonymously posted video alleging the Dutertes are involved in the illegal drugs trade.

“Those named in the matrix demand proof of their participation in the ouster plot. Such is totally unnecessary. The matrix shows that there is an ouster plot. It is just a plot, a plan, an idea,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“The same is not actionable in court it being just a conspiracy. Conspiracy is not a crime unless the law specifically classifies a particular conspiracy to undertake a project or actualize a plan as a crime,” Panelo added.

“It is only when the cases are filed in court that proof will be submitted to substantiate the criminal charges.”

The groups tagged in the supposed ouster plot had denied the allegations and slammed the Duterte administration for putting the lives of journalists and human rights lawyers in danger.

Asked by reporters at the April 22 press briefing when he showed them the alleged conspiracy diagram why the public should believe the allegation, Panelo only said: "It's from the president."

‘Foreign source’

According to Manila Times, its report was based on a quote by a “highly placed source” in the Office of the President and that “two other independent sources” confirmed the existence of an “active plot.” The broadsheet’s managing editor resigned a few days after the story was published and said the report was “poorly sourced.”

Panelo said the source of the “matrix” was the president himself and that Duterte received information from a “foreign source.”

But the Palace spokesman maintained that the information obtained by the foreign country — which he refused to name — was not gathered through an unlawful method.

“The information may have been acquired by a Filipino citizen who shared the same to the foreign country which then transmitted to PRRD pursuant to the global policy of intelligence information sharing between countries,” Panelo said, referring to Duterte’s presidential initials.

“It is also erroneous to speculate that the information was obtained through wiretapping or any similar device prohibited by laws as it could have been personally heard or witnessed during a conversation between plotters... The possibilities are endless,” he added.

Global watchdogs have said that press freedom in the Philippines, where journalism has been historically vibrant and unafraid to question leaders, is under attack under Duterte. The government, including the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, denies this charge.

In the same statement on Wednesday, Panelo claimed that “compared to all administrations, the dissent during this leadership is the freest.”

“No person has been haled to court on account of the individual’s exercise of the freedom of speech or by reason of one’s disagreement against the Administration or its policies,” he said.

“The revelation on the ouster plot is pursuant to the people's right to information. The people deserve to know that there are ouster plans against the leadership of their government.”

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